Just realised I haven’t blogged about my jaunt up Ben Lomond last year. Well I did but a couple of short paragraphs doesn’t really cover it. It was a crazy day after all.
It started with the seven of us planning the trip and gradually realising the weather was going to possibly scupper all our plans. Alex ended up pulling out due to a case of the lurgy and one of Willie’s mates gave up as well. In all honesty we possibly should have as well with hind sight.
I guess the first sign that the day wasn’t going to go we the way we planned appeared when we started driving up the east bank of Loch Lomond. Forget the rain we encountered on the way up there. It was definitely the fallen trees on the road that gave the biggest hint.
The rain held off as we got our gear together but thanks to a few errors in the layout of the roads and land *cough* I couldn’t read my map */cough* it took us five minutes which included a walk up a forest road that went nowhere near the summit before we realised we had to head back to the car park to find the real path.
The initial going was good. The weather was a bit crap though. One minute it rained the next it stopped but the wind just didn’t let up. We would get completely soaked by the rain and then by the time it stopped and started again we would have been blown dry. As we started to reach about a third of the way up we really started to struggle with the wind. It gets a little steep at this point and as the hillside is completely exposed once you get pass the tree line at the beginning it started to take it’s toll. Mark decided he just couldn’t go any further. I don’t know if it was the wind or just his body telling him that despite the energy drinks he was stupid to go any further but he was the first to head back and with hindsight I think that’s when we all should have turned back.
The wind didn’t let up at all throughout the climb and in fact just got worse. I read the weather reports when we got back and for most of the climb the wind was gusting at up to 50 miles per hour. Dave and Stoo were determined to at least make it to the half way point which to there credit they did. There is a well about halfway up on the map which they made it passed before they turned back. I don’t know why but I stood for a few minutes shouting to Dave to make sure he knew what to do if something was to happen to them on the way down. I guess it was because although we all had radios with us the mobile phone reception up there is sporadic at best and almost all the survival and first aid gear was either in my own bag or Willie’s ruck sack.
So we pressed on. At times the wind would just hit us constantly for a few minutes and we’d just stand there leaning into it hoping for it to let up long enough for us to walk another couple of hundred yards before the next gust. It was round about this point that we started to meet a few other climbers as they caught up with us. We’d only seen one other person on the hill up until then and he had shot ahead with his dog and you could see his outline as he made a break for the summit. They all seemed nuts if truth be told. We stopped for a quick rest just as it starts to get really steep and rocky just before you turn back around and start the last leg up to the summit. Willie stopped for a breather and I carried on to see how far I could get before I stopped for a bite to eat to let him catch up.
That’s when I bumped into they guy with the dog again. He was on his way back down after reaching the summit and said it was insane up there. As I found out later it was gusting at up to 90 miles an hour up there. He waited until the wind died down before running between rocks and then holding on until the wind died down again. He almost lost his dog three times thanks to the wind apparently. I pushed on and got to within what I thought at the time was about 400 yards from the summit but after looking again at the map it was probably twice that I turned back. It was just stupid to carry on. I took my last picture looking out over the lochs behind the mountain and the camera’s battery died. It’s was definitely a sign.
It turned out Willie had actually decided just to wait where he had stopped hoping that I’d turn back as well. I eventually made it back down to him and just like when I climbed Ben Nevis there was a spring in my step on the way back down. Where we struggled to walk up the damn hill we were almost running down the thing. The worst bit was still to come however.
When we reached the bottom we found out that the hotel was without power. A tree had been blown over and took out both the power and phone lines. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem except all the way back down the hill all we could think about was a nice warm meal and a pint of beer. The kitchen was shut and the beer pumps wouldn’t work without power. We were stuck with warm bottled beer or cans of soft drinks and a scone.
We will be back to do it again when the weather gets better and there are plans afoot to hit The Cobbler in March in preparation. Fingers crossed the weather works out for us next time!